“… The art of loving has to be learnt… Part of love is friendship, which knows how to combine affection with respect for the other person’s liberty. That means respect for the mystery of the other, and his or her still latent and unrealized potentialities. If love stops, we make a fixed image of each other. We judge and pin each other down. That is death. But love liberates us from these images and keeps the future open for the other person. We have hope for each other, so we wait for one another…” ~ Jurgen Moltmann, Jesus Christ for Today’s World, p. 25.
Over the last twenty-years, approx. I’ve kept running into German Reformed Theologian Jurgen Moltmann (b. 1926), mostly via books and journal articles, but also from time-to-time via podcasts and YouTube) A good friend has added a couple of Moltmann’s books to my library, and as I’m come across his books in my travels I’ve also added them to my library, which means I haven’t always read there, but they sit there for easy reference, and to be read at those times when Moltmann’s thinking is alive and I know I need to read a particular book or article.
Most recently I purchased in Whakatane (NZ) a good second-hand copy of Jesus Christ for Today’s World (SCM Press / Westminster, 1994 / I was interested to see that the original purchaser of the book lived in Murray Crescent in Kelowna BC Canada, and now its ended up at the bottom of the world in New Zealand.). I felt compelled to read it straight away, before it goes on my library shelf.
I was a good read, accessible, and a succinct overview of themes important to Moltmann, and in this instance particularly focused on Jesus Christ - Who Is Christ for Us Today? Jesus and the Kingdom of God (my favourite chapter!); The Passion of Christ and the Pain of God; The Anxiety of Christ; The Tortured Christ; The Resurrection of Christ – Hope for the World; The Cosmic Christ; Jesus Between Jews and Christians; and ‘Behold I m=Make All Things New’: The Great Invitation.
I valued the linkages he makes between theology and practice. The earlier chapters are more grounded in the practical than latter ones, but in all, he establishes a good theological framework out of which one can draw their own practical implications.
Here’s a couple of quotes from the book:
“…The church is a liberating community…”
“…The messianic hope can act in two opposite directions. It can draw the hearts of men and women away from the present into the future. Then it makes life in the present empty, and action in the present empty – and of course suffering over present oppression too. But it can also make the future of the messiah present, and fill the present with the consolation and happiness of the coming God. In this case what the messianic idea enforces is the very opposite of ‘deferred life’. It is life in anticipation, in which everything must already be done and accomplished in a final way, because the kingdom of God in its messianic form is already ‘at hand’.
A good starting point for more on Moltmann, or a good starting point if you’re new to Moltmann is Tyndale Seminary’s Jurgen Moltmann Reading Room.
“Human beings are moved by a dense complex of motives, both in the things we do from day to day and in our big decisions. What drives a young woman to become a doctor or a young man to be an engineer? Many things contribute: success, altruism, interest. Or what drives a woman who has smoked for years to quit or an obese man to get thin? Again, many things contribute: fear of death, desire for health, and concern of family. But they all interact in a kind of movement that eventually drives the person to act… Ignatius learned to think about those dense complexes of motives—images, ideas, attractions, and revulsions—as “spirits.”
… Consolation and Desolation
Ignatius noted that these dense complexes of motives and energies take on two configurations, which he identified with consolation and desolation. He discovered that both consolation and desolation can move you toward God or pull you away from God. Then he noted that sometimes consolation comes from a good spirit and sometimes from a bad spirit, and he noted the same thing about desolation…”
I also want to highlight Mark E. Thibodeaux, SJ contemporary take on the Examen – a method of prayer Ignatius insisted his fellow Jesuits do daily. He regarded it as the most important and needful practice. Its aim is to discern the work and movement of the Spirit beneath the surface of ones life, beneath the surface of our consciousness / awareness. Change and growth occurs at the level of ones thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and motivations (desires etc). It is a practice aimed at “finding God in the diverse everyday happenings and circumstances of ones own life and living. The examen helps us journey into our depths. Thibodeaux’s book is titled Reimagining the Ignatian Examen: Fresh Ways to Pray from your Day (2015). It is a very practical and helpful guidebook. He will provide you with a diverse range of Examen outlines for your daily use.
I think its increasingly important to be able to “read the signs of the times”, but more than that, as we are pulled and pushed from/in every direction, it will become critical to learn to discern what Tetlow calls our own “lifeworld”, and God’s activity within it.
Today, a wonderful conversation with one of the most profound influences on my Jesus-following journey, Eugene Peterson. Peterson is talking to Krista Tippett on On Being. The interview aired 22 December 2016.
“"Prayers are tools not for doing or getting, but for being and becoming." These are words of the beloved biblical interpreter, teacher, and pastor Eugene Peterson. Frustrated with the unimaginative way he found his congregants treating their Bibles, he translated it himself and that translation has sold millions of copies around the world. Eugene Peterson’s down-to-earth faith hinges on a love of metaphor and a commitment to the Bible’s poetry as what keeps it alive to the world.”
You’ll find it here. The photo credit is Greg Fromholz, himself an interesting character. For a filmed conversation between Bono and Peterson (released earlier this year), see this April 2016 post.
‘Dr Iain Provan's new book Convenient Myths talks about how modern culture constructs myths to suit the temper of the time.
Iain Provan has been the Marshall Sheppard Professor of Biblical Studies at Regent College since 1997. In this interview he takes on modern tendencies to re-write history and create myths to suit current thoughts and attitudes.’
I was surprised by how much this 30 min conversation engaged me. You can find the downloadable podcast here.
Published in the US (UK on 30th Nov. 2016) I’m looking forward to reading Australian theologian Michael Bird’s latest book, An Anomalous Jew: Paul among Jews, Greeks, and Romans (pub. 15th November, 2016, 310 pages). It is a mix of some previously published material on Paul and also some original work by Bird.
‘An Anomalous Jew reveals a lively, well-informed portrait of the complex figure who was the apostle Paul. Though Paul is often lauded as the first great Christian theologian and a champion for Gentile inclusion in the church, in his own time he was universally regarded as a strange and controversial person. In this book Pauline scholar Michael Bird explains why.
An Anomalous Jew presents the figure of Paul in all his complexity with his blend of common and controversial Jewish beliefs and a faith in Christ that brought him into conflict with the socio-religious scene around him. Bird elucidates how the apostle Paul was variously perceived ― as a religious deviant by Jews, as a divisive figure by Jewish Christians, as a purveyor of dubious philosophy by Greeks, and as a dangerous troublemaker by the Romans. Readers of this book will better understand the truly anomalous shape of Paul's thinking and worldview.’
Michael Bird sums up his book in this way:
‘…Paul was a socio-religious anomaly. He appeared on the scene of the Greco-Roman world like a sudden yet small ripple moving upon the waters of a still river. He goes mostly unnoticed in his own time, and yet by the time the ripple reaches the shores of the modern age, it has become a tsunami. Paul’s anomaly, offensive as it was to Jews and odd as it was to Greeks, became the Gentile Christianity that eventually swallowed up the Roman Empire and even to this day casts its shadow upon the religious landscape of the world. Not bad for a Jewish tent maker from Tarsus.’
For more on the book, visit the Eerdword site for a written interview with Bird, here.
Today a Richard Rohr OFM, 7-minute sermon / homily from April 24th 2016. The sermon draws from the gospel reading of the day, John 13:31-35. It’s well worth a listen. Fr. Richard Rohr often speaks at his local parish, Holy Family Church, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
You’ll find many other Rohr sermons / homilies here. They’re the kind of thought-provoking, pithy sermons you’d expect from Rohr, and the kind you wish you were hearing every week if you were going to church, in the kind of church-community that would welcome Rohr and sermons of this type.
Today I want to highlight an outstanding collection of theological / hermeneutical / culture engaging collection of essays written by Prof. Richard Bauckham over the course of approx. a decade. They are collected in the 2015 Eerdmans publication The Bible in the Contemporary World: Hermeneutical Ventures. The majority of the essays have been previous published in various publications.
My marginalia have been significant, which is always an indication that the content of a book / essay has really engaging my imagination and thinking processes. Bauckham helps me locate myself more thoughtfully in the adventure that is living in 21st Century Western / Post-Christian culture(s) and contexts. In particular I was struck by the relevancy of his “Reading Scripture as a Coherent Story”; Contemporary Western Culture – a Biblical-Christian Critique”; “The Bible and Globalization”; “Freedom and Belonging”; “The Story of the Earth According to Paul”; “Creation – Divine and Human: An Old Testament Theological Perspective”; “The Christian Way as Losing and Finding Self”; “Where is Wisdom to be Found? Christ and Wisdom in Colossians” (resonances with the work of Paul Fiddes on Wisdom); and finally “What is Truth?” his concluding essay.
Here are a few quotes:
“…We need both an interpretation of Scripture and an interpretation of the contemporary world… Any biblical-Christian critique of the contemporary world must prioriterise the interests of the poor, both in the affluent societies of the West and the rest of the world, especially at the time when the gap between the rich and the poor continues to grow, both globally and locally…
…I have long thought that the understanding of human freedom must lie close to the heart of any fruitful Christian engagement with contemporary western culture…
…The story [that the books of Scripture] they summarize resists closure. The church must be constantly retelling the story, never losing sight of the landmark events. Never losing touch with the main lines of theological meaning in the Scripture’s own tellings and commentaries, but also open to the never-exhausted potential of the texts in their resonances with contemporary life…
… The gospel at the heart of the biblical metanarrative invites without compelling…
The list could go on…
I highly recommend this collection of essays. While aimed at a theologically literate readership, the essays nonetheless would reward an engaged and interested general readership willing to stretch and grow their theological understanding of the place of the Bible in the Contemporary world. It should be compulsory reading for clergy.
Spirit Hermeneutics: Reading Scripture in the Light of Pentecost (Hardcover – August 11, 2016). By Craig S. Keener. Eerdmans.
“How do we hear the Spirit's voice in Scripture? Once we have done responsible exegesis, how may we expect the Spirit to apply the text to our lives and communities? In Spirit Hermeneutics biblical scholar Craig Keener addresses these questions, carefully articulating how the experience of the Spirit that empowered the church on the day of Pentecost can — and should — dynamically shape our reading of Scripture today.
Keener considers what Spirit-guided interpretation means, explores implications of an epistemology of word and Spirit for biblical hermeneutics, and shows how Scripture itself models an experiential appropriation of its message, a way of reading with faith. Bridging the Word-Spirit gap between academic and experiential Christian approaches, Keener's Spirit Hermeneutics narrates a way of reading the Bible that is faithful both to the Spirit-inspired biblical text and to the experience of the Spirit among believers.”